Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2020 finalist, Annabelle Yip! Alice finished 6th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Puppy Love.” Annabelle said, “The element I like best about my story is the character Biscuit. He’s the ideal furry friend (and wingman!) and gives pretty good advice.”
One chilly spring morning, a boy—one of the younger ones, by the looks of him—took me out from my cage at the shelter and examined me. “Hi, I’m Kevin. Nice to meet you…” He looked at my cage’s name tag. “Nice to meet you, Biscuit.”
Kevin put me back in my cage and talked to a few other humans, gesturing at me from time to time. After he finished, he came back with a blue leash and collar. Once he had clipped both to my neck, he took me out again, this time for a walk.
I had been on walks before. My first time was on an asphalt street, cool from the spring rains. There were so many scents that I had missed out on while I was still a pup. Grass, animals, oh—and a delicious smell from the big building over there! When I came back to the shelter, I whined, begging to go back for just one more walk.
My walk with Kevin was similar, but twice the excitement. From time to time, I saw the other dogs that went home with the people they took walks with. Could this be the same for me? I mean, I liked my place at the shelter, but I was just so curious!
We started on the asphalt street. The air was filled with the earthy petrichor of the early-morning rain. I barked in delight as I trotted next to Kevin. He smelled of pinecones and rain and happiness. Every so often I would bump into him. He liked it when I did that, rubbing my back with a grin. I loved that smile. To my dismay, our walk ended at the shelter and Kevin left with a ruffle of my long, tricolor coat and a promise to see me next week.
Thankfully, Kevin kept his promise and I saw him the following week. And the one after that, too, for a total of seven times. The seventh time he came back talking with the humans again, who appeared to be his parents. I caught a few fragments: “Keep please?” “Love him so much.” “Best friends.” Then he came back and played tug-of-war with me in a large, fenced-off area outside the building. As he did this, his parents exchanged words, then appeared to come to an agreement. They called Kevin back, and when he returned, a huge smile rested upon his lips.
“You’re coming home with me, buddy!” He tousled my fur and gave me a few scratches. “Not today, though,” he frowned, “But in a week, I’ll see you again and we can go to your new home!” I romped around the outdoor area as Kevin left. giddy with excitement.
The next few days were torturous and blissful at the same time. I counted down the days in agony. Six, five, four, three, two, one, and finally, the day before I was to leave with my boy, I had my very own spa day, just like the dogs before me. The people who worked at the shelter bathed me with a special soap, brushed my fur, and gave me my own collar. Blue, just like the one I wore on my first walk.
When Kevin entered the shelter, I leapt around the shelter floor, yipping and yapping in excitement. He rushed to me with open arms and embraced me before clipping a leash on me and walking around. He smelled excited and happy, just like I’d imagined.
After Kevin’s parents had signed some papers and received a pamphlet from a person at a high desk, they called him over. With me at his side, we walked to a large, smelly vehicle. (“Cars,” the other dogs had called them.) I got to sit on the back seat with him. A long while passed, in which I fell asleep with my head in his lap. When I opened my eyes, we were in front of a “house.” Kevin led me through a door to a room with two big machines and lots of shoes. A bed and two toys sat there, along with a blanket that smelled just like Kevin. I immediately jumped on the bed, pulling the blanket over me with my teeth. It was so much more comfortable than the cold plastic I slept on in the shelter.
That night, after a meal of kibble in the kitchen, I rested on my bed, Kevin snuggled close by. He pulled the blanket over me. “Goodnight, Biscuit. It’s time to sleep now, but we get to play more, tomorrow, okay?” I closed my eyes and agreed with a whine before drifting off to sleep.
The next morning, I woke up and ran upstairs to Kevin’s room. Time to play!
Kevin groaned and smiled. “Morning, Biscuit. Ready to play?”
We walked back to the room with my bed, and Kevin pulled a leash off a rack. “Let’s go for a run.” We played outside all day, then came home, hot and exhausted. We ate dinner, then slept and repeated the whole thing. The rest of the summer passed in a blur, with a few memories standing out. Playing in the water at the beach near the park. Watching a movie together in the dark. A picnic in the backyard.
As the summer fun came to a close, Kevin told me he would have to go to school soon. Every morning, he would have to leave, but every afternoon he would come back and play with me. “I wish I could bring you with me, but there are rules there. Sorry, buddy,” Kevin murmured, stroking my fur.
That night, I slept in Kevin’s bed. I wanted to be with him until the last minute. Was I overthinking this? I mean, Kevin said that he’d be back by the afternoon, I yawned. I trust him. He’ll be back.
The next morning, I woke up as Kevin stepped out of a steaming room. He quickly changed into clothes, walked downstairs, and prepared food for both of us. After Kevin and I finished our food, he settled a backpack on his shoulders, pulled on a pair of sneakers, and left through the front door to board a big yellow bus.
“Bye, Biscuit!” Kevin called over his shoulder.
Arf! See you soon, I replied with a grin.
Soon after, his parents left in their cars. Now there was no one home. No one to keep me company. I moped around the house for what felt like forever before I made a discovery.
My family had left the back door open for me! I stepped out onto the patio to enjoy the outdoors. The great green expanse was laid out for me to explore. Smells flooded into my nose from left to right, and I bounded out onto the lawn to discover them. That day, I spent all of my time in the backyard, exploring. Bird, rock, worm, bird, wood, bird. Ooh! I dug at the ground with my paws. Bone! I held up the old thing triumphantly. Suddenly, I came upon one more smell. Another dog? I bounded to the fence to go check it out.
Hey, a voice said.
I whirled around. Who’s there?
Your name is Fence?
No, silly, it’s Ara. Look at the fence.
Oh. I peered through a crack in the fence to see a pair of large, sparkling eyes. I crawled underneath a broken section of the fence to face a female Border Collie with the bright eyes that I saw earlier.
Hi, Ara, I barked. I’m Biscuit.
Cool, she replied. Are you new here?
Yeah, my family just left for the day.
You seem like you know the routine around here. What do you do when your owners are gone?
Ara paused, deep in thought, and I felt something shift inside me. Something nervous and happy, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Well— Ara’s words cut through my thoughts. I usually play in the stream in the woods. Would you like to come with me?
I grinned. Absolutely.
Ara led me through a twisting trail of trees to a bubbling creek filled with unfamiliar scents. I prodded the water with my paw, unsure. What are you waiting for? Ara asked as she climbed a fallen log.
Well, I don’t really know, but— wait!
Ara crouched down and leapt through the air, a streak of monochrome sailing into the water.
Ack! What was that for? I whined.
For taking too long, Ara barked from the murky water. I growled playfully, splashing her as I ran into the creek.
Soon, Ara and I crawled out of the creek, exhausted. Both of us shook the water from our coats and trotted back to our respective homes.
Hey, that was… really fun, I barked from behind the fence.
Yeah. Thanks for coming with me. Ara paused. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?
I yapped in agreement. See you soon! I couldn’t help but grin as I turned my back to Ara and trotted onto the patio.
When I came in through the back door, Kevin and his parents were already home, filling the house with loud sounds of activity. Kevin’s parents were in the kitchen, making dinner. I barked a hello and leaned on each pair of legs, earning a few pats and scratches. Then I ran up the stairs to Kevin’s room, where I announced my entrance with a yip.
“Hey, boy,” Kevin smiled from his bed. “How are you?”
I grinned. Good. I cocked my head and asked a question with my eyes—the kind of thing only close friends can do.
“Oh, you want to know how my day went? Aww, so considerate,” he teased.
I laid down next to him and put my head in his lap, looking into his eyes. No, really. Tell me about your day!
Kevin laughed. “Well, since you care so much, my day was really good. The teachers in middle school are surprisingly nice! The other kids are pretty nice too, and I made some friends.” He paused. “Biscuit, can you keep a secret?”
Of course. What is it?
“I knew you could. There’s this girl in my homeroom class,” he began, blushing. “And she’s super cute. And funny. And nice. And, well, I really, really like her. Oh, man. I can’t believe I’m talking about my crush to my dog.”
Aroo… I smelled something from Kevin. A happy, nervous feeling. I thought about Ara from earlier today. The way she walked and barked and, well, did anything made my heart beat faster. Kevin and the girl… was that the same as Ara and I? Did I have a crush on Ara?
Apparently Kevin could read my thoughts as well, because he gasped knowingly. “You like someone too, right? Could it be our neighbor’s dog? Hmmm?”
I buried my head in Kevin’s blanket, my face burning with embarrassment. “Aww… So both you and me, huh?” He rolled his eyes, the edge of a smile on his lips. “I guess we’ll see how it turns out.”
The next day, Kevin had to leave for school again, so I spent more time with Ara. We ran around in the woods, playing tag, hide-and-seek, and tug-of war.
You know, it’s really nice to be able to play with someone all day long, she sighed. Before you moved in, there were no other dogs, so I was really lonely during the day.
Oh… I grinned, feeling that nervous happiness swelling up in my chest again. Well, I really like playing with you too. Thanks for spending your time with me.
Just then, we heard car doors slamming in the distance. Well, we better head back now. I’ll see you tomorrow!
Over the next few weeks, I fell into a routine. I’d wake up and spend some time with Kevin before he went to school, then see his parents off as well. Then, I’d play with Ara and return home in time to see my family again. One day, there was a shift in my routine.
When I ran into the house to greet my family, only Kevin’s parents were there. I whined in confusion. Where was he? I paced around the house frantically until he came in through the front door. I rushed to the door to greet him—and stopped short.
Who was that?
Standing behind Kevin was a tall, pretty girl. I sniffed the girl curiously. “Well, hello,” she paused, looking at my name tag. “How are you, Biscuit?” She scratched my head and smiled as I licked her hand.
Aroo? Who are you?
Kevin eyed me curiously. “This is Emma, my girlfriend. Be nice, okay?”
Girl… friend? Well, we can be friends, too, right? I hope so. She looks really nice.
Kevin pulled off his sneakers and his jacket and gestured to Emma. “Over here. I’d like you to meet my parents.”
Later, after dinner, Emma thanked Kevin and his family for having her over, and the three of us left the house to walk Emma home. Once, Kevin and Emma reached to rub my head at the same time and their fingers ended up intertwined. I glanced at Kevin, practically glowing hot pink in the full moon, then Emma, pomegranate red, and grinned.
A couple of days later, I saw Emma again for dinner. When we finished eating, Kevin led us over to the living room to watch a movie. Halfway through, Emma rested her head on Kevin’s shoulder, asleep. Kevin laughed quietly. “Come on, Biscuit. Help me wake her up. It’s time for her to head home, anyway.” I nudged Emma’s shoulder and licked her hand.
Come on, get up, I smiled.
“Hmm?” Emma opened her eyes, gasping when she realized that she was leaning on Kevin. “Oh,” she blushed. “Sorry. Let’s uh, walk home.”
Time and time again, Emma would come to our house until I saw her at least once a week. She came to our house while the leaves fell, while snow blanketed the lawn, while flowers grew on trees. I had never seen Kevin so happy, and Emma seemed to genuinely like him.
Late in the afternoon, I was playing tag with Ara in our backyard. Suddenly, Kevin opened the back door and sat on the steps of the patio, his shoulders slumped over in a defeated, helpless pose.
Hey, Ara, something seems to be wrong with Kevin. I’m going to talk to him, okay? I barked.
Okay. It’s about time for me to head home for dinner anyway. See you tomorrow! Ara whined.
I trotted over to the patio and rested my head on Kevin’s lap. What’s wrong, Kevin?
“Hey, buddy,” he sighed, “At least I know that you’re staying with me.”
What do you mean?
“Haha… you’re probably curious about that, huh?” Kevin paused as tears welled up in his eyes. “Turns out Emma’s leaving. Her family is moving across the country. And she won’t be back. I’m just really confused. All of this was really sudden. Just yesterday, we were fine. Laughing and stuff. But now… Well, I think Emma and I are done. This puppy love thing wasn’t going to last anyway.” He wiped at his eyes and stood up to leave. “I… I think I need some space, Biscuit.”
As I walked back inside, thoughts swirled around my head. Puppy love? Is this what Ara and I had? And if so, was our friendship going to end like Kevin and Emma’s? I couldn’t think about anything else. Ara and I… not friends? No—that wouldn’t happen. It couldn’t.
All night, those words bounced around in my head, so the next day, after Kevin left, I paid a visit to Ara. Through the back door, under the fence, and up to the patio where she was stretching out in the morning mist.
Hey Ara! Sorry, I know that it’s morning but I have something to talk to you about, I barked.
Go ahead, she yawned. I’m just a little tired.
You know, Kevin, right? My boy next door?
Yes. What’s wrong with him?
He had a friend. A really close friend. And since she’s moving away soon, they’re no longer friends. Could that ever happen to us?
She laughed, a teasing, breathy, exhale. Of course not. We’re good friends, yes, but I’m not going anywhere, so don’t worry so much, okay? Ara looked around and stood up to leave. I have to leave for a vet appointment soon.
Oh. Okay, but Kevin also mentioned something about “puppy love,” when two people are really close. Do, um, I hesitated. Do you and I share that?
Ara was taken aback, her mouth hanging open. I said this before, Biscuit. We are good friends. Very good friends. And I don’t think anything can change that. So maybe puppy love. I’m not sure, but maybe. Ara threw a smile over her shoulder as she trotted through the back door of her house.
The day after I experienced how truly happy Kevin was with Emma. Ara and I were playing hide-and-seek in the woods, when Ara sprang out from behind a tree stump to surprise me. BOO— ack! She tumbled right into me, and we crashed into the base of a tree. We turned to look at each other in silence and then grinned at the absurdity of it all. I was happy, a nervous, excited kind of happy, but nonetheless happy.
Unfortunately, Kevin wasn’t.
The next weeks were hard for him. After Emma left, he distanced himself from everyone. He spent most, if not all of his time in his locked bedroom, only coming down for meals. Still, I tried to keep him happy. We would walk to his favorite places: the beach, my old shelter, and even just the park. Nothing seemed to work until I pulled him next door to meet Ara. Her owners were willing to have Kevin watch her during the day. A “puppy play-date,” they called it.
Finally, Kevin began to warm back up to me. As the days grew longer, we spent the mornings on long walks and the afternoons sprawled out in front of a movie. Kevin no longer had to go to school, so I was able to rekindle my relationship with him by spending all day by spending all day with him and Ara.
During one of our morning walks in the park, I turned around a bumped noses with Ara. Aroo? I blinked, confused, while Ara hung her tail between her legs, embarrassed, and Kevin laughed.
On a sunny afternoon, Ara and I were curled next to Kevin as we watched a movie. “Hey, stay here, okay? I’m going to get some water for you two,” he explained, getting up to leave.
Okay, I whined. Ara?
I’ve been thinking a lot about what Kevin said a while ago and I think I understand what puppy love is. Puppy love is a strong friendship, a close bond that two dogs—or people—can share. Sometimes it’s a romantic love, like Kevin and Emma, and other times it’s just a friendly love, like Kevin and I. I’m not sure what is between us, Ara, but I know that I like it and that I want this… bond to continue.
Ara smiled. I really like this too, Biscuit. And I want to thank you Biscuit, for being my best friend.
I grinned. Thank you, too, Ara. For being my best friend as well.